About Diana Stout

Screenwriter, author, former English professor

The Power of Visualization, Part II: The Power of Making It Happen

When I was in my late 20s, I had fleeting visions of wanting educational degrees, in particular, a Ph.D. I say fleeting because I was raising a family and there was no way I could be on a college campus, let alone have a way to pay for it. This was the time period before affordable computers for individuals and before the Internet became public.

It was an idea so far out of my reach that it was an impossible dream. At that time, my education consisted of an executive secretarial certification from a business university—one where I would later in life find a career as a teacher. An irony not lost on me.

On June 29, 2013, at the age of 62, I walked across the stage and was hooded for a Ph.D. I was an English professor, overseeing two campuses at the time. In earlier years, I’d overseen three different locations, spending a lot of time traveling, in addition to teaching, and overseeing a dozen or so adjuncts at these locations.

It was my employer who had propelled me toward the degree and had paid for its tuition. How could I not want to achieve that goal with that kind of help? It was a win-win for me and for them. In exchange, I couldn’t leave their employment for five years, a price I was willing to pay.

Now that I had the Ph.D., along with my MFA, I felt secure in my career, and the university wanted me to publish. The problem was I wanted to focus on both creative writing and academic writing but I didn’t have time for both. I had to choose.

My gut told me to go with creative writing, and it was my first choice, but would the university agree? After a brief discussion, my supervisor agreed with me, saying the MFA and my previous publications created a more natural path for me. She supported me in that decision.

Life events kept getting in the way of doing that writing, however. After being involved in a 22-car pile up on the highway while traveling from one campus to another, I sent a request out into the Universe. My request was, I want writing time but where I’m allowed to live comfortably enough without horrific sacrifice.

It was late fall 2014 when I made that request.

As was happening with many colleges and universities, student enrollment was dropping and had been every year for several years. Fewer classes got offered. I watched as an organizational restructuring took place. I’d seen it happen a few times in my twelve-year employment with them and with every restructure, jobs would disappear.

The last big restructuring had taken place a few years earlier where they shut down several of the smallest campuses. We knew the Battle Creek campus would be next, and then our Kalamazoo campus after that.

Those campuses residing in community college environments were becoming partners with those community colleges. We could see the writing on the wall for Kalamazoo. By late spring 2015, we figured we had only a year left. As summer progressed, we were confident we’d be closed at the winter Christmas break. We were prepared.

Late June 2015, a meeting with all the senior administration occurred. Not usual for that time of year as we prepared for another year. A couple times a year such meetings would take place. We figured this would be the talk for the winter closing.

What some of us didn’t know is that day would be our last.

I was taken into a room with a senior human resource official. I was informed that I was being let go as they were shutting down our campus for all classes that fall. The core administrative staff was moving to another location and classes would be held on the community college campus. We were six weeks away from classes starting. When I left the room, I would have 10 minutes to gather my things and could arrange to come back later to collect anything else.

I sat there, in my usual stoic manner, thinking it all through.

I wasn’t stunned at all. Just merely surprised that we hadn’t guessed correctly.

And then I realized. I had asked for this. I said the words aloud. The HR official’s expression was one of surprise. Great surprise. “You’re not angry?”

“How can I be when I asked for this?” I told her of my fall request, saying this was the Universe answering that request. She was astonished and I could tell that she was also relieved that she wasn’t having to deal with anger, resentment, or frustration.

The good news was my Ph.D. was free and clear of any indebtedness. A big win for me.

As I collected my things, I wondered what I was going to do. Where I was going to live? How I would support myself until I could officially retire, something I didn’t want to do until I turned 66.

That’s when I heard my little voice say, Don’t worry about it. It’s going to be okay.

Having trusted that little voice in the past, I knew it spoke a truth that I couldn’t comprehend yet.

In the coming months, I was to find out.

Stay tuned for “The Power of Visualization, Part III.

The Power of Visualization, Part I: The Power of Making It Happen

Yesterday, I traveled to Holland to meet with a friend, a former co-worker who I haven’t seen in a couple years. The visit felt like we had seen each other just last week. I love those friendships I have where the bonds are as strong as ever despite the many years between visits.

Two items on my relatively short bucket list are 1) to see a bald eagle in the wild, and 2) see a moose in the wild. For the later, it’ll take a trip to the Upper Peninsula or to Maine where I’d love to do a fall color tour since I’ve never been to that state. But for number one, I knew that the bird had returned to Michigan. I’ve been hoping…

As I was headed to Kalamazoo on 1-94 on my way to Saugatuck to visit my all-time favorite new age store, Mother Moon, before going to Holland, I decided to drive through Fennville, a small community in the middle of nowhere and which has a great winery. Out loud I added, “And wouldn’t it be nice to see a bald eagle there?”

I was enjoying the green foliage on the trees, being able to take my time as I drove in the shaded highway. I noticed lots of blossoming spirea plants, wondering how I could possibly plant one or two at my rental, knowing I couldn’t because they get so big. It brought back memories of being on the farm and the row of blossoming spirea every spring on our property, how it would look like it had snowed on the hedge.

Spirea

I turned from 40 onto 89, a straight-line of highway that would take me through Fennville over to 31. Not a cloud in the sky. The shaded forests on either side of the road diminished as I began approaching the town.

I looked up and there it was. A bald eagle overhead, soaring in a wide circle, wings spread wide. That pure white head impossible to miss.

bald eagle

I felt as if I had manifested its appearance, that the Universe heard my request and granted it.

So, why haven’t I been able to see an eagle before now? Because I never said when or where I would like to see one. I was specific this time, plus I was in the perfect place where apparently this bird resides, and I was there at the perfect time.

Any other time I’ve talked about wanting to see an eagle in the wild, I’ve been in my house, at my computer or on the phone. Impossible to see one through a ceiling, right?

This isn’t the first time, I’ve drawn something I desired toward me. I wrote about “The Winter Coat” in a blog here five years ago.

A few years ago, I wrote the blog, “Writing Down the Words: Making Magic Happen.” The coat was about imagining my vision as true. This second blog was about imagining the words as true.

And then three years ago when my job disappeared…wait, what? I haven’t told you about that desire that came about unexpectedly and in the most unusual way?

That’s my next blog. Part II. Stay tuned…

 

 

 

Just Wait

If there’s one big lesson I’ve been having to learn in this life, it’s the lesson of being patient. Sometimes, I just want to get things done now!

Take two weeks ago, for instance. In dealing with my step-dad’s estate as executor, I’d been filling out all kinds of forms. He had some American stock that had been sold to a Canadian company about six months before his death. At the time, there were forms I had to fill out just so I could get information.

Upon his death, I called the company and got instructions on what I needed to do. It took three weeks just to receive those forms. I filled them out, followed the instructions I had received to perfection, and mailed the package off that included special additional instructions in the way of a formal letter that the stock was to be sold.

Two weeks ago, first on a Thursday, I got a piece of mail that didn’t indicate his estate status. What the heck? It was mid-afternoon and I knew the phone lines would be busy. (I’ve learned that if you don’t want to be kept on hold forever, call first thing in the morning–you get right in.)

The next morning, I got sidetracked. The mail arrived and with it another piece of mail, this time indicating the estate status but asking me to fill out a form regarding his tax status. What the heck? Didn’t I cover that in the package I had sent them?  It was now 1:30 p.m. on a Friday afternoon. I called and was immediately put on hold and was told by the robot responder that I’d be put on hold for 20 minutes. I was prepared to sit it out.

Then my little voice said, Hang up. Just wait.

Having learned to listen to that little voice in the past, I immediately hung up.  Wait for what?

These are regular mailings. Automated. Wait for them to process your package.

For how long?

A couple weeks, that’s all.

I set the papers aside but in daily view, attaching a Post-It reminder on when to call.

A whole week passed.

And then the following Monday, I got a check in the mail from the company. The stock had been sold and the account closed.

Once again, the little voice had been right, saving me time and aggravation. All I had to do was wait.

And not doubt the little voice knew that I was being impatient.

The Circle Crows Event

Crows and ravens are birds of high interest to me. They’re attached to mystery, death, darkness both of night and of the psyche. These birds are extremely clever, intelligent birds who like to collect objects, the shinier the better. Science has shown that they recognize humans as individuals.

Crows and ravens are totem birds for me. As I learned about totems, it was the bald eagle that was my first totem bird. The crows and ravens came later and are still currently part of my totem clan.

Because they are important to me, I pay attention whenever I hear a caw or croak as to where am I, what am I doing, or what are they doing, and how many are there at the time as numbers have meaning, as well.  These birds are usually solitary creatures but when they are together, there’s a specific reason why.

  • They are considered messengers in many cultures and often as messengers of a future event.
  • They are the guardians of their area: they will sound off seeing someone or something new nearby, as they watch from the tops of trees or building rooftops.

Recently, I was in the process of closing my step-father’s house, removing the last of the furniture and any remaining personal items. The house was for sale and we were close to getting an offer.  My step-father who is 89 had been born in the house and lived in it his entire life, except for the few years when he was in the service during the Korean War and when living with his first wife, to whom he was married for only two years. When he and my mother married, she would move in with him, but their marriage would last only five years. They were still friends when my mother died.

I had hired a team—a middle-aged woman and an old man, as they called themselves—who were moving his goods to an auction house, where everything would be sold.

Halfway through the move, we noticed birds circling above the house. They were crows, quietly circling at the height of about two tall trees. They weren’t cawing, but I could tell they were crows by their silhouette. There were about two dozen of them. Immediately, I had goosebumps.

For forty-five minutes they circled. Continuously. Every time we came out of the house, we looked up and there they were.

We came out of the house for the last time. The two movers carried that last load to their trailer parked out by the street.

I locked the door, shut the screen, and walked out from under the porch canopy and looked up.

The crows were gone.

Goosebumps popped up on my arms and along my spine. I’d never seen crows circling like that before or for that length of time. Nor had I ever seen that many in one place, acting as one.

Suddenly, I realized that they had been signifying the end of an era for my step-father and signifying a new beginning for a future buyer.

As I walked to my car, I realized their circle had represented the ever circle of life.

My Introduction to Totems Through Lucid Dreaming

My first big experience seeing future events began with a repetitive lucid dream in 1989, concerning my father. I wrote about that experience in an earlier blog.

When that first dream appeared, it was more like a nightmare. I was scared and woke up in a panic. I felt powerless.

As the dream repeated itself, that’s when I learned about the power of lucid dreaming, first with the help of a screenwriter friend, Kelley Essoe, followed by reading books and informative, credible online articles.

Lucid dreaming occurs when you realize you’re dreaming and you allow yourself to stay in the dream. You’re not controlling the outcome, but rather, allowing yourself to be an observer of yourself in the dream. At the same time, you’re aware of your physical surrounds—movement of others or noises you can hear.

I began putting that information to work, making myself go through the dream, until finally, the dream came to its natural end. Once it did, the dream stopped. At the time, I wasn’t sure what it all meant. Was this a dream in code? Of symbolism?

It was only after my father’s heart attack that I realized the repetitive dream had been a prophecy, giving me the ability to foresee a future event, with no code or symbolism whatsoever.

A few years later, another dream began repeating itself, night after night after night.

The dream always started with me standing in the middle of a street. I would run, stick out my arms as if they were wings, and with one downward push of my arms, I would lift off, gliding forward.

So began my nightly flights.

Thankfully, I never crashed, but there were times I felt I would. Always, at the last minute, I slowed and pulled into a perfect landing on my feet, almost as if gliding, much like ducks and geese on a lake.

When flying, I would go over and under wires, over buildings and mountains. Sometimes, I would head out into space, always connected to Earth by a thin silver thread, seen anytime I looked down. The scene was both breathtaking and scary at the same time. Then in that same second of a glance down, I would be in a dive, racing toward Earth, familiar landscape looming up, all the while holding my breath waiting to crash. Instead, I would swoop into the familiar glide, coming to a safe stop.

Despite the fact that there were people around whenever I took off, no one ever saw me!

Even stranger was that when I returned, everyone was gone. No family. No friends. No strangers, animals, planes. Nothing. Just me, the road, the wires, the trees, and the sky.

eagle - canstockphoto8120543It was at this time when the bald eagle entered my life in a noticeable way.

Back in 1988, I had attended a writer’s conference in Seattle and had brought home a souvenir, a small hand-carved bald eagle made from the solidified ash of Mount St. Helen, which had erupted in 1980. I kept that souvenir by my computer.

Then, in the mid-nineties, I found this large movie-poster size picture of a bald eagle flying through trees that resembled the Northwest forests. I couldn’t stop staring at it, so I bought it, and hung it in my office. Anytime I took my gaze off my computer monitor, I was looking at that poster.

Soon after, I recognized that my second marriage was in trouble. Having gone down that road before in my previous marriage where I went to counseling all by myself, I was reluctant to travel that same solo road again. Still, I hesitated, not sure what direction to take.

That’s when the dreams began.

One afternoon, I was talking on the phone to a screenwriter friend, Mark Posey, telling him about my repeated dreams of flying. He knew nothing about my souvenir, the poster on the wall, or the fact that I was unhappy with the direction of my life, in particular my marriage. He did know about my desire to be a screenwriter—a situation that both of us chatted about from time to time, mostly in the screenwriting chatrooms we belonged to.

As I finished telling him about these dreams, he said, “Diana, you were meant to soar alone.”

Immediately, my gaze when to the poster on the wall and goosebumps broke out on my arms, a chill running up and down my spine.

In that moment, I saw another vision I’d been having for years. Me living alone. Surrounded by books.

He was right. I needed to soar and fly on my own.

I’d love to say that I made changes right away and that I became that happy screenwriter.

Unfortunately, no, it didn’t happen that way. Instead, I entered into a fifteen-year-journey, where that year I did divorce again, but it would be another year before I reinvented myself, where I went back to school and officially entered a career that blended well with my writing. I became a college professor.

During that fifteen-year period, the bald eagle remained a totem, but now the moose—telling me to go the slow and steady path—took the lead as the primary totem. During my master’s program, the dragon took the lead.

Today, while the dragon is still a strong totem for me, the raven and crow have entered my life, as messengers. (Just as I proofed this last sentence, crows outside my windows started cawing loudly.) The bald eagle and moose are still there but at the fringes of this totem landscape.

Since that time when the bald eagle first became my totem and where I represented it in my dreams with the ability to fly, I’ve learned to pay attention to all visions, whether they are delivered during waking hours or in dreams as they provide solutions to problems or are visionary of future events.

Additionally, I pay special attention to an event or conversation when one of my totems shows up.

Since those early days, I’ve learned that totems can come and go. We’re not limited to just one. We can have a number of totems. I’ve had seven so far in my lifetime. And, each one has offered me specific direction or frame of mind as I proceed forward.

The Magic of Plants

The Magic of Plants

Once upon a time, in the world of big corporation and cubical landscapes, there was this small, dry, forgotten palm.  It stood only about six inches high and was near death.  Its owner had vacated the premises and apparently stuck the plant on the windowsill, which was accelerating its death due to continual bright, direct sun all day long and no water.

I took pity on it and took it home.

Conditions at home were just the opposite.  A small apartment that received minimum indirect daylight, as the windows faced east and the shades shut while I was at work.  That meant light only came into the room on the weekends.

Miraculously, the plant survived.  It must have liked the bigger pot,  better soil, and cooler temps.  Plus, I was talking to it and watering it regularly.  Somewhere, I had read that plants liked being talk to.  Something about breathing in our carbon dioxide exhaling breaths.  Since it exhaled oxygen, we were a good match.

I lived in that apartment for several years and the plant grew slowly.  Surprisingly, the plant blossomed a couple times, despite the darkness.

Then, I moved to a spacious modular, a.k.a. double-wide mobile home.

Spacious with many windows, at the opposite end of the front door was an enormous kitchen and a sliding glass door that led to a small porch that butted up against the trees.  Even when the vertical blinds were closed, the kitchen was still filled with light.  The plant thrived there.

Other than my watering it regularly, we shared quarters for a year.  During that time, I repotted him, giving its roots more room.  It blossomed again that year.  I began calling him Hank, sometimes Buddy.

Then I moved to small apartment again in another community, but this apartment had a sliding glass door that led to a small cement pad porch.  This time, my light came from the northwest, more north than west, but even with the shades drawn, which was most of the time while I was at work, there was ample light.

Even during the winter, if the sun was out, the room captured rays of the setting sun, even more during summer, particularly where Hank was positioned.  Additionally, he sat next to maple armoire, which reflected the heat with additional heat seeping through the armoire wall next to Hank, due to the TV and stereo equipment when turned on.

Hank thrived, despite the long days with drawn shades.  For the first couple of years, several times each year, the plant produced new fronds and blossomed multiple times.  I’d talk to it as I pruned off the lower dead leaves that appeared on occasion, telling him I was doing it for its own good.  I sensed that he believed me.  Then, he began sprouting new leaves every other month and blossoming even more during the year.

When I got a treadmill, to make room, I slid the plant closer to my writing desk.  It wasn’t long before  Hank 2012his leaves began to mingle with the leaves of my work, the books, and manuscripts.  Anytime I had to move him away from my desk, I sensed that he was unhappy.

So for the bulk of the twelve years I lived in that apartment, he thrived, turning into a blustered four-foot tall palm whose width filled the non-opening side of that sliding glass door.

And then, I’ve moved again.  Hank moved into the new apartment, in another new community a month before me.  His job was to clean up the air due to new carpet installation, the smell which I was allergic to.

He did his job well.  I placed him in the bedroom, where the brightest light appeared despite the closed blinds 24/7.  While he was helping me clean the air, I suspect the air was a bit toxic for him, too.

About a month after I moved in, I noticed the lower leaves were turning yellow.  I realized, too, that the water was different.  Not to mention having moved in the middle of winter.

Lots of changes for a creature that prefers gradual changes rather than lots of sudden to its surroundings.

I think its isolation in the bedroom was a tad depressing, once I moved in.  I was out in the living room all day, writing.  I could hear him expressing that he wanted to be near me again during the day.

For a while, he sat close to the big window, capturing the sun’s vibrant energy as the blinds are open all day.  But now, he’s back near my desk, once again his leaves touching mine.

He’s starting to get new leaves again, so he must be happy.  I’ll know it’s true once the blossoms appear again.  Today, Hank is easily five-foot tall and wider than ever, almost too big for my 520- square-foot apartment, but I won’t part with it, as he’s part of my family.

Some people have cats, dogs, or birds.  I have a plant.  I’m a nature person.  I need trees and plants around me.

More than one tree, shrub, or plant has communicated with me in my lifetime and more do so every day.  Having read The Secret Life of Plants: a Fascinating Account of the Physical, Emotional, and Spiritual Relations Between Plants and Man (1989) by Peter Tompkins and Christopher Bird years ago, I can’t wait to read about The Hidden Life of Trees: What They Feel, How They Communicate Discovers from a Secret World (2016) by Peter Wohlleben and Tim Flannery that comes out this fall.  It’s always nice when science proves what I’ve known for some time.

My happily ever after?  Hank is thriving, I have a flower bed again, thanks to my daughter and grandson, and I can enjoy the beautiful red maple tree outside my front door.

As the plants thrive, so do I.

Toying with me . . .

The other night, about 11:30 p.m., after another long day of learning as I was working on a new major writing project, I came across a photo of a storyboard that was now missing.

Diana's plotting board

Seeing the picture of Post-Its on the storyboard, I hungered after those little squares, needing them for my newest project where I was stalled.  Those squares represented a night’s worth of plotting and planning from years ago, and they were needed for this new project that has an upcoming deadline.  I really didn’t want to have to reinvent this story again.

Looking at that picture, I began making promises with the Universe that if I could find this storyboard, I would do this and I would do that the following day.  This and that being items that had little to do with my writing, and which I’d been procrastinating about.

You have to realize that two weeks earlier, I had spent two entire days tearing this place part—more like re-organizing everything—trying to find this storyboard, or thinking I had taking the Post-Its off the board, the sheet(s) of paper where the Post-Its could now reside.

I even went through all my storyboards.

This particular storyboard was missing from the pile.  In fact, I pulled out all the storyboards from behind the always-opened utility room door where I kept them and stacked them in the living room where I could work with them later.

So here I was at midnight, having seen this photograph, wanting it back in my possession, and saying to all the entities that reside here with me but on a different vibrational level, “Give me back my storyboard and I’ll do nothing but taxes and cleaning the house tomorrow.  No learning, no playing on my iPad, no reading.  I want it back.  You’ve had your fun.  I want it back.”

Driven by a sudden urge to look behind that utility room door where all the other storyboards had been stashed and were now sitting in my living room, my steps took me to the utility room.

I stood there thinking, no way. 

I pulled on the door.  Resting up against the wall, where the other storyboards had stood, guess what I found.

Yup.